International Soil Judging Competition at the World Congress of Soil Science in JeJu Korea   2014.

Team Coach Report by Dr Richard Doyle

The first World Soil Judging Competition was held on Jeju Island in South Korea in the three days preceding the 20th World Congress of Soil Science. Dr Richard Doyle CPSS attended in the role of Australian Coach and Team Manager.

Soil Science Australia had a team comprising four students, one from the University of Sydney (Mario Fajardo), one from the University of South Australia (Raghupathi Matheyarasu) and two from the University of Adelaide (Melinda Moata and Yulin Zhang). In total there were 13 teams and over 50 individual competitors so this was quite a big and complex operation and was very well organised by Stephen Cattle (Australia), Christine Morgan (USA) and the South Koreans (Kim Kwon-Rae).

The program involved two days in the field to familiarise the competitors and coaches with the local soil types, the geomorphology and geological materials and the various agricultural and recreational land uses (tangerines and golf course largely). It also took some adjusting to the American Soil Taxonomy classification system, local soil textures, particularly the Andosols and other variations in the USDA soil profiling system. The two training daysinvolved driving around the island looking at the landscapes and land uses and practising in eight prepared soil pits which had been previously described and classified.

On the third day (Saturday) was the actual competition with two soil pits assessed by the individual competitors and then two soil profiles undertaken by the national teams. Raghupathi did very well in the individual profiling scoring in the top half of the field of 13 teams and over 50 individual competitors, however overall we did struggle with the unusual soils, short preparation time and unfamiliar soil classification. As might be expected the USA team pretty much cleaned up. However they have been doing this for over 50 years and they brought their national winners to Jeju whereas we began pretty much from scratch.

The challenge for us in Australia is to start running these competitions nationally and then support the national winners to travel to the next World Congress. It looks like there will be a follow-up competition this year in Melbourne so please start getting your teams ready.

Competitor Report by Raghupathi Matheyarasu, University of South Australia

Jeju2 I had a chance to represent Australia in the first ever international soil judging competition; held recently at the twentieth world congress of soil science in Jeju Island, South Korea (5th to 7th June).

The team (Australian team members Melinda Moata (University of Adelaide), Raghupathi Matheyarasu (University of South Australia), Mario Fajardo (University of Sydney), Yulin Zhang (University of Adelaide) was led by Dr Richard Doyle from the University of Tasmania and proudly sponsored by Soil Science Australia. Thirteen teams (includes; USA, Australia, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, China, South Africa, Mexico, UK and Hungary) from across the globe participated in this three day event. The event was monitored by scientist from USA, Australia, and South Korea with over 45 international students competing for the individual challenge.

Our team had a great time in Jeju Island, by experiencing new culture, lifestyle, food, more importantly diversified soils. The event started with a two day practical session to elaborate the objectives of the contest and to learn the practice before we began the competition in the actual pit. We had a chance to study different soil orders across the island. I can proudly say that “Jeju can be the global soil biodiversity hotpot”. The study area is a highly elevated, and high rainfall region. The annual precipitation rate is thrice that of Australia’s average.

The Island (soils) formed after long periods of volcanic eruptions, and we found evidence of this during our practice day. We had a chance to study variety of soil’s which included: 1. Andisols 2. Alfisols 3. Entisols 4. Hisitisols 5. Inceptisols 6. Millisols 7. Utisols (Note: Jeju soils are dominated by the Andisols soil order).

The first ever soil judging test consisted of five major sessions, as follows: Part-1. Soil morphology (horizon, boundary, texture, colour, structure, consistence, redoximorphic features) Part-2. Soil profile characteristics (hydraulic conductivity, effective soil depth, available water holding capacity, soil wetness class) Part-3. Site characteristics (landform, parent material, slope, erosion) Part-4. Soil classification (epipedon, subsurface horizon) and finally with Part-5. Interpretation - Land suitability (agriculture, golf course and building construction). All sections are equally important and related with each other.

This competition helped me (us) to learn key aspects of soil profile examination. I learned how to describe a soil profile with minimum technical support. I gained knowledge on soil morphology (horizon, boundary, texture, colour, structure, consistence, redoximorphic features) soil profile characteristics (hydraulic conductivity, effective soil depth, available water holding capacity, soil wetness class) site characteristics (landform, parent material,slope,erosion) soil classification (epipedon, subsurface horizon) and finally with interpretation of available data to classify the land suitability to agriculture, golf course and building construction.

To be honest this competition helped me to become a complete soil science student and with this strong background I am able to face the next big event at our own battle yard in November this year in Melbourne. I would like to thank the University of South Australia, CERAR, CRC-CARE and Soil Science Australia for providing funding to attend this wonderful and remarkable lifetime event.  Australia finished a commendable 7t. My team (Australia) score (64.4%), and my score was 64.8%.    

Raghupathi Matheyarasu - University of South Australia Globally qualified (graduate) to get dirty!

Jeju5   Jeju3  Jeju6

TOP RIGHT: Everyone gets a participation certificate, including our reserve competitor Phil Hughes (centre) who competed with the “Hunglish” Team – well done team!

MID LEFT: Raghupathi and Dr Richard Doyle.

ABOVE RIGHT Australian Soil Judging Team (L-R) – Richard Doyle (Coach), Raghupathi Matheyarasu (UniSA) Mario Fajardo (Uni Sydney), Melinda Moata (Uni Adelaide) and Yulin Zhang (Uni Adelaide).

ABOVE CENTRE: Competition Day in 1st World Soil Judging Competition – individual pit description - the students are all concentration personified!

ABOVE LEFT: The Aussie team under instruction.

Soil Science Australia


Soil Science Australia is a not-for-profit organisation that serves as the peak body for soil scientists across Australia, and seeks to advance soil science in the professional, academic and technical fields.  It is a member of the International Union of Soil Sciences



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